Russian Revolution and Civil War: Crash Course European History #35

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Shared February 13, 2020

World War I was very hard on the Russian Empire. So hard, in fact, that it led to the end of the Russian Empire. As the global conflict ground on, Tsar Nicholas II faced increasing unrest at home. Today we'll learn about the Revolutions of 1917, the rise of Lenin, Trotsky, and the Bolsheviks, and the Reussian Civil War and the creation of the Soviet Union. 

-Engelstein, Laura. Russia in Flames: War, Revolution, and Civil War, 1914-1922. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2018.
-Kivelson, Valerie A. and Ronald Grigor Suny. Russia’s Empires. New York: Oxford University Press, 2017.
-Sanborn, Joshua A. Imperial Apocalypse: The Great War and the Destruction of the Russian Empire. New York: Oxford University Press, 2014.
-Smith, Bonnie G. Europe in the Contemporary World since 1900. 2nd ed. London: Bloomsbury, 2020.

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Andrew Gutmann

“So it was February, sort of, and we were in Petrograd, sort of” sounds like a great opening for a novel.

6 days ago | [YT] | 271


When the country's out of bullets and the Tsar still sends you out to fight


6 days ago | [YT] | 331

Maddie Begg

I feel like any effort to fit the Russian Revolution into just fifteen minutes was going to end up frustrating a lot of people. Particularly in the interesting times we're suffering through, I think people of all political stripes look to the revolution as something to learn from.

What I'm saying is, we need Crash Course: Soviet History.

6 days ago | [YT] | 167

ユーネ / Yuune

This is very biased. First of all Russian people never really supported provisional government and Bolsheviks knew this, that's why they were successful.

6 days ago | [YT] | 37


10:20 Not entirely true. There were no great leaders, but the white "movement" terror showed plenty of brutality and corruption driving more and more people to the reds.

6 days ago | [YT] | 129

Anna Rose

This is the third source I have read or watched on the Russian Revolution and quite frankly it is hard to believe that they are apparently describing the same events. Couple of problems that I have with this video:
- the Revolution of course wasn't just fuelled by war, it was also fuelled by factors like the average life expectancy for most people being 35 while the Tsar controlled somethung like 45 billion dollars, and by the failures of previous demands for reform (like the 1905 Revolution)
-the Provisional government from what I have read wasn't very democratic at all. They said for example that they were pursuing peace and then got caught doing the opposite when newspapers published government papers. They also made no steps to redistribute land for example. I think 'democracy' is an overused word. If it applies to governments like the Provisional one (or like the ones we have now, actually), of course people aren't going to have faith in it anymore.

6 days ago | [YT] | 121

Diego Rodríguez Serantes

Supperficial episode at best. Manipulative at worst.

Some errors:
Bolsheviks (and Lenin) didn't break with marxism. They belived that for a worker's revolution to succed, there must be a party coordinating it. They didn't substitude one for the other.

Lenin was against "socialism in one country", meaning that a socialist country alone can survie in a capitalist world, which was what Stalin thought.

Lenin didn't renounce to the word "socialism" because it was "to democratic". Lenin reasoned that since socialist parties all over the world had supported WWI, being therefore responsable in part for the deaths of thousands of the same workers that they "represented" in the name of their country (against the principle of "proletarian internationalism"), socialism had become a dirty word. Even Lenin said that calling themselves "Communist" wasn't is own idea. Engels suggested the term half a century before, thinking that "socialist" wasn't the best sinnonim to "marxist".

There was no anarchist in the goverment. That is just false.

The civil war wasn't "bolsheviks v. all". Bolshevisks formed a coalition with the mayority of the Social Revolutionary party and some menshevisks

For those interested in the story of the Russian Revolution, just read "10 days that shook the world".

6 days ago | [YT] | 149

Kyle Walker

Not entirely accurate glosses over alot of history and make generalisations some of which are wrong or just purposely left out

6 days ago | [YT] | 82


I usually like your stuff but this was probably the worst depiction of the Russian revolution ive seen on YouTube

6 days ago | [YT] | 13


A few things were glossed over with it being declared that Lenin declared the beginning of the overthrow of democracy and that was that. Instead the provisional government was seen not so much as democratic, since it was mostly made up of civil servants and military leaders who kept postponing elections repeatedly. Instead it was seen as incompetent and ignorant to the wishes of the masses, particularly concerning the World War which Kerensky's government had initially promised to end with a treaty with Germany only to renege on this promise later and continue the war effort.
What is also missed is the role that many of the monarchists and generals in the Russian army who were anti-Kerensky played in the actions of the Bolsheviks, with the actions of General Korilov in the Kornilov affair being of note due to his position as Commander-in-Chief of the Russian Army. Kornilov gathered a number of Russian soldiers and began marching on Petrograd which had hardly enough forces to prevent Kornilov from seizing control of the provisional government which forced Kerensky to rely on the Bolsheviks to protect the city. So Kerensky authorised military arms to be put in the hands of the workers of Petrograd to stop Kornilov. After hearing that the city of Petrograd had been armed and was defended by the Bolsheiks many of Kornilov's men deserted resulting in Kornilov being imprisoned in Bykhov Fortress. Once the Kornilov affair was dealt with, the Bolsheviks took the oppurtunity of having the workers of Petrograd armed to the teeth to take control of the city and overthrow the provisional government.

6 days ago | [YT] | 218

aarar qaae

I adore your videos, so as hard and old fan I have to make a few points, reminding you to better check info, especially on the next video

1) it’s very important to highlight both sides of conflict, things seen as brutality of 1 particular side usually become different when you see that this is how things are done by both, white terror is extremely unpopular topic in anti-soviet discourse of 20/21 century European history

2) to call duma a democracy is overstatement, just read a few close articles on a topic how it usually was working
3) when talking about bolsheviks resort to violence you should show info on how zarista police and secret police was dealing in same situations

I am now even starting on things like extreme rate of child prostitution due to bad social management of late-czar era, but even a hint of this probably will light up some interest on why some people decided it’s no use to wait for everyone to agree while country is dying. And most of them were SR at the start)

Love, keep the good work, fight your biases)

6 days ago (edited) | [YT] | 29

Benjamin Luhis

Big fan of the series for a few years but this episode is really problematic...
Slight distortion of facts, thin explanation of events and missing other crucial components entirely.

6 days ago | [YT] | 38


10:15 It's Cheka, not Chekha. Cheka is short for Chrezvychaynnaya Kommisiya, or Extraordinary Commission.

6 days ago | [YT] | 111

Vaclav Kodanev

My notes, as a historian from Russia:
1. "Chekha" is actually ChK (ЧК -- the letter Ч sounds like ch and in abbreviations it's pronounced like che /like in "Che Guevara"/; K sounds like usual K and in abbreviations it is pronounced exactly like English word "car"). It's an abbreviation for Чрезвычайная Комиссия (Chrezvychaynay Komissiya; Emergency Commission). And yep, it is a Bolshevik secret police.
2. Of course, Bolshevik rise to power was a way more complicated story. Basically, it's something like an underdog thing -- the most radical and extremely unpopular group of people gathers support and opportunity to use brutal force to become the ruling party, though still being unpopular. They got their momentum for the first time in the end of spring 1917 and used it as they can and in september 1917 they got their second momentum. And of course, up until spring 1917 they were seen only as marginal radical Marxist theorists living in Western Europe.
3. Though I really hate bolsheviks, it's unfair to say they hated the idea of constitution. They didn't like the constitutionalism as a movement based on separation of powers. They disbanded Constituent Assembly only after the Assembly declined constitution proposed by bolsheviks (I know, it's also undemocratic, but it's not like they got to know they had no majority and disbanded the assembly). And about two months later on one of the regular All-Russian Congress of Soviets (basically a big congress of deputies from each city, from many big rural areas and from the army) the bolshevik constitution was accepted and became the first Constitution in Russian history.
4. Stalin's role in foundation of USSR. There were two plans of forming USSR in 1922: "Lenin's plan" and "Stalin's plan". Stalin was a general secretary of Russian Communist Party (of Bolsheviks) -- it was not an influential position at that time (basically, "the head of party bureaucracy") -- and also a Minister of Ethnic Relations. So, in terms of forming USSR he was a "profile minister". He suggested creating lots of different ethnical autonomies inside the country, which will be somehow self-governed in terms of local economy and preserving local cultures, but really controlled by the government of Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic. Stalin's idea was based on practicality of "socialism in one country", Lenin's -- on the desire of spreading revolution. There were five independent communist states (they were recognised by each other and by Russian SFSR) directly bordering RSFSR: Ukrainian SSR, Byelorussian SSR, Georgian SSR, Armenian SSR and Azerbaijani SSR in the end of 1922. And bolsheviks were eager to make like Hungarian SSR, German SSR, Finnish SSR and so on. The Lenin's idea was to make each of SSRs an equal member of Soviet Union with the secession right (it was needed to say to other communist countries that we are ready to see you as an equal partner in the Union and if you don't like it here, your country may leave anytime it wants), and Stalin's plan was to make those states an autonomy inside RSFSR. In the end... Lenin's plan won, not Stalin's. And later on, Stalin would actually embrace Lenin's plan during his rule, as would any other future Soviet leaders -- de-jure the secession rights will be a thing up until 1990 (when Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Georgia, Armenia, Moldova used their secession rights, but only the first three of them officially left the union, 'cause others were not sure if they wanted to leave the Soviet Union, which was democratizing very quickly that year) and December 1991 (when Russia, Ukraine and Belarus used their secession rights and basically informed other Union members that "of course, you can stay in Soviet Union, but without us it has no point"). Though, some of Stalin's ideas were implemented in 1922, the main one was merging of RSFSR government and USSR government. Basically, in 1922-1989 the territory of Russian SFSR was directly rule by a government of authorities from all 15 republics.

P.S. I would really recommend a book called "The Empire Must Die" by Mikhail Zygar on this topic. It is a non-fiction book based on memoirs of different members of Emperor's court, artists, businessmen, leaders of different political parties, labor unions and terrorist organizations in 1900-1917. It is a very neutral book without any "this side is bad, this side is worse and this side is good" definitions, it is more a narrative about how a really divided country may split, how many people with different views will have different agendas and different hopes -- and how, in the end, the smallest and most radical party won it all. And, since it's written by a pretty popular in UK Russian journalist, it's really easy to find English version of this book. They even have it on Audible, though I don't think it will be easy for a non-Russian person to remember Russian names in the book while listening to audio version.

6 days ago (edited) | [YT] | 40

André Luis Araujo

This episode was brought to you by: The US State Department

5 days ago | [YT] | 34


Failed to mention (among other things) the international involvement in and support for the White army. This was not your best episode. :/

6 days ago | [YT] | 119

Lucas Maciel

The "constitutional illusions" is an expression Lenin uses way before the october revolution. Here in the video, it is used to say the bolshevicks were undemocratic. Way to go...

6 days ago | [YT] | 48

brendan a'hearn

in the thought bubble it talks about the revolution of October but makes it out to be some sort of coup d'etat, which quite ignores the electoral success the Bolshevik party had seen in the previous months, as they took control of both the petrograd and moscow soviets. it's a little bit dangerous to suggest that the revolution was solely the machinations of the Bolshevik elite, with no real popular support, because that isn't accurate.

6 days ago | [YT] | 46

Sword of Tauberg

Left out how the US, Britain, and other allies sent an army to try to destroy the Bolsheviks and support the Whites.

Really poisoned the well with that move.

6 days ago | [YT] | 115

Victor johnson

Liberty is just privilege extended
Unless enjoyed by one and all

6 days ago | [YT] | 78